Diagnostic Testing
Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac Catheterization


Cardiac Testing


What is the test?


Cardiac catheterization is a procedure that enables your doctor to examine the inside of your heart to diagnose a variety of potential heart problems. Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you are suffering from symptoms of coronary artery disease, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, or if other diagnostic tests such as an EKG or stress test indicate possible heart problems.


During cardiac catheterization, the cardiologist uses x-ray guidance to insert a catheter (thin tube) into an artery in either your leg or your arm and advance it into the area of the heart that needs to be examined. Sensors on the catheter tip can measure mechanical activity, blood pressure, and help locate blockages. Blood samples can also be taken to check oxygen content. A contrast medium can be injected through the catheter, which enables your doctor to take x-ray pictures (angiograms) of the heart and coronary arteries. This process is called coronary angiography. These pictures can show problems with blood flow, as well as the movement of the heart wall.

How do I prepare?

Your cardiologist will give you specific instructions prior to the catheterization regarding your medications. You may also be asked to have blood work performed at the medical center laboratory a week to ten days before the catheterization. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your cardiac catheterization. Because you will receive a mild sedative during the procedure, you must bring a family member or friend with you to drive you home afterwards. Cardiac catheterization patients typically return home the day of the test.


What can I expect during the test?

Cardiac catheterization is performed using local anesthesia. Either your arm or leg is anesthetized, depending on where the catheter is inserted. You may also be given a mild sedative to help you relax. You are awake during the procedure since you may be asked to cough, breathe deeply, or hold your breath during the catheterization. The procedure itself is painless; however, you may feel warm or flushed for several seconds if a contrast medium is used.


How and when will I get my test results?


Your cardiologist will discuss your test results with you immediately following the cardiac catheterization. The findings will also be shared with your primary care physician. Based on this information, your doctors will be better able to diagnose your heart problem and advise you on your course of treatment.


After the test?


After the procedure you’ll be asked to lie quietly for a few hours. A doctor or nurse will apply pressure for ten to twenty minutes where the catheter was inserted to prevent bleeding. During that time, we will monitor your blood pressure frequently and inspect the catheter insertion point regularly to be sure that all signs of bleeding have stopped. After discharge, you should limit your activities for one to two days and avoid any lifting.


Where is the test performed?


Experienced cardiologists who are credentialed in cardiac catheterization perform this procedure in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Cayuga Medical Center, 101 Dates Drive, off NYS Route 96, in Ithaca. We use the latest techniques and technology and operate one of the newest cath labs in New York State. Our program is approved by the New York State Department of Health and accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.


Cayuga Medical Center is an affiliate of the Rochester Heart Institute at Rochester General Hospital, a Cleveland Clinic Heart Surgery Center.

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